Saturday, October 16, 2010

Celebrating Survivorship

I am celebrating my seventh anniversary as a Breast Cancer Survivor. I do not have a particularly interesting story about my cancer, just my story. It began with my routine mammogram on October 2, 2003. The next day I had my routine six-month dental visit. The day after that, on Saturday, I participated in the Diabetes walk with my sisters. We walked along and I mentioned my two appointments and commented that I’d take a mammogram any day over a visit to the dentist!
The following week I got a call that I needed to come have another mammogram taken because there were spots that they wanted to take a closer look at. It would probably be routine they said, but they wanted to be sure. So back I went and afterward, the technician and the doctor showed me the mammogram and the area of concern. They told me it could be calcifications, or it could be cancer. They were not positive which it was, so they wanted me to go to have a stereotactic needle biopsy the following week.
So off I went to have the test done. First, I had to watch a video. If I wasn’t nervous before watching that video, it did the trick. I nervously went in and followed directions to a tee. I was to lay face down on a table that appeared to open near the top so my breast could go through the open space so the doctor could do her work. The worst part of the test was the shot for the anesthetic. The rest of the procedure was tedious at best, which was not as bad as the video at all!
The doctor and nurse were very compassionate and I felt comfortable with them both. They were using a very small camera, taking pictures of their journey inside my breast. There was a lot of technology going on below me, and perhaps one could liken it to having a car getting a lube job done where the mechanic does everything underneath. After they took the core biopsy, they inserted a chip into my breast, just in case I had surgery so the surgeon would know exactly where the spot was. Talk about targeted procedures! Then I had yet another mammogram before I could go home.
After I was dressed and ready to leave, the wonderful nurse, Patty, hugged me and pinned a very cute angel pin on me. I wore that pin for the rest of the day, along with my ice packs. You see they left that chip in my breast! What were they going to do if I didn’t need surgery? Leave it in or make me go back for another needle job? How inconvenient!
I went to work the next day wearing my angel pin, and the day after, I wore the pin too. That day, the 16th was when I was going to find out the results of the test and I was getting anxious. That day I was sitting in our employee wellness committee meeting and the pin broke and dropped onto my lap. I picked it up and was starting to feel a little numb. Was that an omen? I needed to find out so I called the doctor only to find out she was on vacation. I couldn’t reach anyone in the practice who could help me. I called the imaging center to see if they would tell me the outcome. I was transferred all around the place because they were not authorized to tell me the results of my own test. Finally I talked to someone who would call the results into the doctor covering for my provider. When he called and told me I had breast cancer I was pretty surprised. I didn’t expect it, not that anyone does really... do they? He assured me that I would have surgery, radiation and I would be fine. So, I hung up and trying to remain calm, I got up from my desk and helped a student who wanted to pay his parking fine! My boss took me in hand and had me use her office to call my husband; then I drove home and waited for him to come home. I tried to be as normal as possible. I would survive and I knew it; I really wanted to downplay it, which I did. I took things as they came along one by one to keep it from overwhelming me. Cancer takes over your schedule and your time is not your own for the duration of the treatment period.
Today I celebrate and look back at who I was then, and see the resilience I possessed.

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